Struggling with Depression

I am taking a break from writing about fun stuff like failed relationships, RVing, reality TV and my hatred of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’m going to discuss my life a bit and a one-time battle I had with what I figure is depression. I’m going to tell you what I believed triggered it, what happened while I was fully into it and what got me out of it.

I had a telephone discussion with an ex. Mistake because she blames me leaving her for the misery she finds herself in these days. In fact, she finds great pleasure in letting me know all the crap she’s been through is not a result of her refusal to work full time like us savages, but due to the lack of support I gave her. Ok. Normally that wouldn’t ┬ábother me, but this session was different. She blamed me for her not having any children. She told me she wanted to have three children and now she’s too old to have any (she is).

That made me feel bad. Then I thought sticking around her essentially ended my family line. She didn’t say so, but getting pregnant would have been difficult for her. And the fact of the matter is if she truly wanted to have a kid, we would have. Bottom line, you generally start kids with intercourse, and we weren’t having it. At least not with each other.

Anyway, I thought more about it until I could barely do anything. I would go to work, come home and get right into bed. I would lay there and let these “waves of blue” crash into me. Only after talking to a friend did I realize what was happening. She suggested I go see a therapist, which I did not. I was barely functioning but hardly anyone knew.

What got me through it? My cats. I did not always like cats. In fact, I never wanted to be around them. My cats took care of me. One of our cats would curl up next to me while I was in the fetal position. He would sleep next to me and purr. Our other cat, the anti social one, soon became much more friendly. Before long, both of them would come upstairs, get next to me and purr while my life was going into the tank.

Thats why I’m going to cry like a baby when my cats go. I really really owe them.

What snapped me out? Nothing in particular except a desire to get out of the pity party. I did. It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and start doing something.

Not everyone can do that. Hardly anyone can do that. It’s very hard. Depression is a mo—- f—-r. It can hurt you badly.

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The Interstate Highway System

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned the Interstate Highway System. When I joined the military, I think I had been on three Interstates: I-75, I-85 and the only one that truly mattered, I-95.

That’s changed. I’ve been stationed on both coasts. As of today, I’ve driven cross country (Eastern to Pacific time zones) at least 10 times, and from border to border three times. You have to use the Interstate system to get anywhere relatively quickly. Because there are safety standards for interstate highways, it makes it an easy decision to RV on those roads.

I-80 at I-95, Hackensack N.J.

As you know, the major interstates are denoted with an end number of zero (east – west) or five (north – south). I’ve been on all of them, and not for just a little bit. I’ve traveled all of Interstate 10, Interstate 20, and Interstate 85. Of the zero and five interstates, I’ve traveled 400 miles on all of them except Interstate 30.

I-30, Texarkana TX

I-30 isn’t really a major Interstate, it runs from Little Rock to Dallas. Texas messes up the Interstate system, something else dumb they did. There’s an Interstate 2 and an Interstate 14 in Texas, minor routes but probably something Texas did to squeeze the Federal government for money. I’ve traveled most of I-30 anyway, from north of Little Rock to just east of Dallas.

Most of the interstates aren’t very interesting visually speaking but there are some very necessary routes that make national leisure travel — and more importantly, interstate commerce — a reality. These are the diagonal routes leading from one region of the country to another. One is Interstate 85, which brings you to/from the Deep South from/to the Northeast. Interstate 71 moves travelers from the Midwest to the top of the South. Interstate 59 brings travelers from the Gulf Coast to the top of the South. Interstate 15 serves a similar purpose in the West. These cross over regions and tend to cut substantial amounts of time off long trips.

There are routes existing for the purpose of connecting a solitary city with the rest of the United States. Interstate 25 exists to connect Denver with Canada and Mexico. Denver is a metropolis distant from any other major city in the country. I’ve traveled most of I-25. Here’s a fact: I-25 north of Casper WY to I-90 in Buffalo is the Empty Quarter, the Rub al Khali of the United States. I truly feared an RV flat tire or breakdown in that region, because there would have been no real help for hours. If you’re on I-40 east of Barstow, at least there is regular traffic. Another car might not come along for 20 minutes on I-25, and who knows who is in it?

Interstates are a lot less forbidding since the advent of the cell phone. After I joined the service, I did my first cross country trip almost completely at night, from Merced CA to Washington D.C. via Highway 99, I-80, I-74 to I-70. I was driving across central Nevada at 1 am and I stopped at a rest area literally in the middle of nowhere for a break. I fell asleep, then I woke up. Charles Manson was staring at me sleeping in my car. I started screaming, started the car and drove off. Next rest area, 44 miles. I was still tired. Years later, I thought how making that trip alone and unarmed was so dumb. Now, Charlie would have seen me swinging my full size 1911 around before HE went screaming off into the night. Once I stopped at a rest area in Southern California along the I-10 east of High Desert at you guessed it, 2 AM. I meant to avoid LA traffic. I’m at a urinal when I find out someone is masturbating in the stall next to me. I’m trying to cut off the stream to move away while they continue, and end up peeing a bit on my shoes. Oh well. In those days, I considered myself invulnerable. Now, not so much. Unless I’m in a legit desert or there’s no phone reception, I’m generally within minutes of a state trooper. Cops typically frequent rest areas.

I don’t do extra long trips anymore. By extra long, I mean 1,000 miles or more. That’s literally more than a third of the country. Sleep is a valuable thing. While I will tow the RV up to 540 miles in a day, that’s nothing compared to the long haul trips I’d make in my car. I drove over 1100 miles in a day, from east of Oklahoma City to Phoenix via Flagstaff. I drove from Phoenix to San Antonio, another thousand + miler. San Antonio to Atlanta is just short of a thousand miles and I’ve done that a number of times. Anything under a thousand was no big deal. Well, not quite. One that was a big deal was finding out my girl was at San Antonio for a medical evaluation, while I was in Biloxi MS (Keesler AFB). I hadn’t seen her in a while. I drove 600 miles in 8 hours via Houston; it was well worth the trip. Back when I was stationed at Warner Robins, I drove from D.C. to Fayetteville N.C. (Fort Bragg) while I was sick with the flu.

I only do daylight RV towing because setting up after dark is no fun. Actually it’s not a good thing to tow in the dark because you might not see something you’d want to see and someone might not see you either.

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Clear Source water filters

Many of you use water filters with your RVs. Typically you go camping and you aren’t sure of the water quality at the camping location. Most campers I see use those Camco filters from WalMart. I’ve viewed the numbers on those filters and while they are better than nothing, they are at the low end of filtering

Big Truck Big RV did a review on the Clear Source water filter. This is a system reviewed by Ray of LoveYourRV.

I think the Clear Source is a great system, based on this review and Ray’s review. I’m not going to purchase one, because it’s expensive. Now I know what you’re going to say — you have a $xxxxx truck, don’t skimp on items as important as your water. I happen to have a Hydro Life system. It’s a single filter, with another expensive (now $42.50!) filter that I believe does a great job removing particulates from the water. The water is drinkable but we don’t — now we get a 5 gallon Sparkletts water bottle to carry with us wherever we go. Still, the water comes in contact with our skin and we’d rather have filtered water than not. BSP doesn’t believe spending $300 on a water system constitutes value over lower end filter essentially doing the same thing. Some RO systems cost less.

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RV trip to Austin

This past weekend, we went on an RV trip to Austin, TX. While many of you don’t know this, I used to live in the Bay Area of California.

Austin reminds me somewhat of the Bay Area of California. I say somewhat because it’s still infected by Texas, after all the Governor of Texas lives there while in office. But Austin is a thriving metropolis, one based on high technology and medicine, Dell is located in Austin. There are numerous start-ups there as well. Austin is also the home of The University of Texas. While the University of Texas is well known in higher education, the state of Texas is not. The rest of Texas considers Austin “weird” because there’s a lot of non-conformal and independent thought there. In reality, Austin is about a hundred years ahead of the rest of Texas, a fact the rest of the state hates. Going back to San Antonio is like going to the dark side of the Moon. We’ve been to Austin before so we didn’t do much touring. Besides it was really hot this past weekend, so we decided to hang out at the trailer.

We stayed in a Sun RV Resorts RV Park, the Hacienda, located near Lake Travis. It’s a nice park but like most RV parks is becoming more of an RV residency. Transients – tourists like myself are now more the exception. It is becoming harder and harder to find RV parks for weekend trips. If you don’t believe this, ask any of the numerous RV clubs. A rally is next to impossible to book, mostly because RV parks don’t have the space. Clubs are now having to book rallies years in advance because the parks will cancel them unless they have a contract with the club. Corporations are taking over RV parks. One RV park near here is having problems with the owner fending off offers from the Jellystone Park chain. Jellystone caters to young families, the high growth segment of RV ownership. Young families are moving to the RV as a method of early home ownership. It keeps them from getting stuck living in one location and having to commit to a 30-year mortgage. It’s a bit daring but kids who have known nothing else are fine with it. If you don’t like living in one, you can sell your RV and move someplace else. Then there are the membership only RV parks. You pay a fee to join and you stay for a couple of weeks at a time. In my opinion, these membership clubs are more for full time RVers who have plenty of time to figure out where they’ll go next.

Our trip went well from the RV standpoint. The water pump appears to have worked, we saw no obvious leaks. I turned the water pump on for a short period and it hardly made a sound. The RV behaved well overall. The temperature was over 100 degrees, and the air conditioner ran almost the entire time. I am going to have to install a baffle over the air conditioner to reduce the noise. One of the small issues we have is with the water heater. We just had it cleaned two weeks ago so it should have worked. In electric mode, it barely heated the water to lukewarm so we used our LP. That does the trick, even though we should not have had to use our own gas. I’ll have to look into that.

Austin is an eclectic city, so it has an eclectic food scene. For us, we had dinner at a local restaurant, the Roaring Fork. If you’re ever there, try the green Chile Mac & Cheese. I had the center cut filet mignon, you don’t need a knife. Everything I’ve tried at Roaring Fork has been excellent, including the cocktails. There was a Roaring Fork in north San Antonio but it closed. It appeared to be doing quite well so we’ll never know.

Austin is one of those trips we can take over a weekend, so we’ll be back … but not too often. Actually making the trip in an RV is horrendous. The traffic borders on the horribleness of Washington D.C. For bittersportspills, D.C. traffic is the measuring stick for awful. Not only are the major highways in the D.C. area jammed, the side streets are as well. There are simply too many people and drivers in the D.C. area. Top that off with a mix of aggressive drivers from other parts of the nation (like Texas, the capital of aggressive drivers) and you’ll get a terrible driving experience. Austin, unlike D.C. has no real bypass highway like virtually every major metropolitan area in the U.S. Texans has some aversion to civic planning, something the political class here refers to as “freedom.” Yeah, freedom to be stuck in horrendous I-35 traffic daily, and perpetually under construction highways leading to nowhere. Those so-called “freedom” lovers should be sentenced to I-35 N at U.S. 290 forever.

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Water Pump

If you have a not as expensive RV like we do, you know the water pump is louder than hell. I’ve replaced the Flojet model in our RV with a Shurflo 4088 model.

It was not very hard to remove the old Flojet. I took off the clamps, unscrewed it from the location next to the master bedroom and removed the wires. It took about 5 minutes to remove the pump and 20 minutes to wipe up the water spewing everywhere. Never take off the pressure side first.

My idea on installing the Shurflo was to install a screen filter on the input end, but the cabinet was simply too small. Actually it fit but the installed water hoses were so short I would have had to seriously modify them for the item to come close to fitting. So I removed the screen filter and then it fit well enough to install.

I’ve not yet tried it, so I can’t report on the new water pump’s performance. I suspect it will be much quieter than the old water pump.

Speaking of the old water pump, it will be put to good use. I saw a YouTube video where someone used a water pump connected to a 6 volt battery to pull water from a plastic water tank. The object is to refill an RVs fresh water tank while boondocking. I’ll let you all know how that works out.

In the meantime, I’m strongly considering videos of my upgrades. I’d like to show how non-difficult most of the upgrades I’ve made, really are.

The key upgrade on the whole vehicle is the bed. Most RV stock beds are crap. We sleep on a Tempur-Pedic bed at home, so I wanted to get a memory foam mattress. I bought one from WalMart for about $300. It fit perfectly but it’s much heavier than the stock mattress. Then again, it’s a godsend on long trips, like the one to Yellowstone.i was thankful I had purchased that mattress on that trip.

If there’s a second important upgrade I made, its LED lighting. The incandescent lights were power hungry, hot and didn’t provide as much light. I swapped those out early in our RV experiment. Other upgrades were the motion LED pucks in cabinets, mounting a second TV in the bedroom and placing an Amazon fire stick on the device. I also use a Weber portable gas grill with the vehicle. I attach a low pressure hose to the RV gas line and cook using my RV propane tanks.

The last mention is of the tires. I was not too pleased with the tires because the salesman insisted I ditch my hardly worn tires for safety reasons. If he had actually told me the truth – the old tires couldn’t handle as heavy a load and the new ones were better rated, I would have bought them anyway.

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Hail the Hail

As persons living here in Texas know, we are having our usual bout of springtime bad weather. Severe storms are crossing the state on a near daily basis. Thunderstorms, heavy rain and even tornadoes have touched down in the state, as well as the Midwest and Southeast.

Another severe weather form has also emerged from the skies: Hail. Texas has seen up to 2 inch diameter hail in the last few weeks. Hail is as damaging a form of weather as any other. Hail causes insurance companies heavy losses. For instance, bad weather during a hurricane can cause flooding and water damage. Hail destroys everything underneath it. We had a nighttime hailstorm here a couple of years ago. It ruined my roof, our fences and damaged two of our cars to the point they required $9,000 in repairs. Yes, that’s without broken glass.

We sought to place our RV in a covered storage yard. That expenditure doubled the amount we paid but gave us at least some reassurance the vehicle would be at least partially defended from the weather.

It also makes us much less likely to go out on a trip.

Part time RVing is somewhat dependent on good driving and touring weather. Who really wants to go out and spend a weekend in a rainstorm? Consider the fact that a hailstorm could ruin your coach in minutes. I have a colleague who has had his RV pelted with hailstones 3 times in a year. He insists the roof is still good. Another colleague had his RV bombarded with hail, suffering near complete destruction. I recommended he part the vehicle out and scrap it.

It’s very hard picking a time to go out because the storms could return at any time. They can strike anywhere so we have to keep track of weather forecasts.

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Once Again, the Black Tank

Early in March, I decided to take the toilet wand and literally rinse out the black tank in my RV. To properly do this, I brought it by my house, filled a 5 gallon container with hot water, dumped some Dawn, 20 Mule Team borax and Calvin into the black tank. Then I took the wand, stuck it down the toilet and rinsed.

Eventually it got to full. I meant to empty the tank but it started to rain. I took the trailer back to storage so I thought I’d empty the thing the next day. I put some Happy Campers in there, so it would be fine if I let it go a few days.

Then I got called into work. I worked for 12 days straight. Today, two weeks after my shift work ended, and four weeks after I rinsed the tank out hard, I remembered I had filled it. Oh boy.

The black tank has not stunk up the trailer. We have a 360 degree vent, and the toilet had been cleaned out anyway. I had cleaned it prior to this soak, and Happy Campers is a proven product.

I am interested to see what comes out. I have a feeling it’s going to be gross, but not too gross. I suspect the tank will be less dirty than it’s been in a long time. The materials I had put in the tank were nothing more than you would use in the laundry.

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A Word about Yellowstone Park

I just watched Sean Michael in the Long Long Honeymoon series discuss their Five Favorite Places to see in Yellowstone National Park. If you’ve viewed this blog for a while, you know BSP has been to Yellowstone National Park twice. You also know we posted quite a bit on the subject back in 2016 & 2017. Here’s how we enjoyed our first trip to Yellowstone (and Grand Teton) National Park:

1. You must camp in the Park, if you’re RVing there: I suspect I’d never have visited Yellowstone if I didn’t have an RV. It saves an immense amount of time when you are touring the park. There is one full hookup Park, at Fishing Bridge. Make your reservations long in advance and for a good period, we reserved our spot 9 months in advance and camped there for 8 days. We planned for 6 and two at Flagg Ranch but fires made us cancel. 8 days there was perfect for what we were trying to do.

2. Divide Yellowstone into quadrants for touring: On our way there, we met some people in a Home Depot who told us they had divided the park into four parts. These four parts made the park digestible, and with 8 days there, enabled returns to parts we had not visited.

3. Upgrade your camera and use it on a photo session before your Yellowstone trip: I upgraded my camera to the Nikon D750, which although a bit dated is more than adequate for photography there, given the right lenses. We took our camera to Europe on a 2 week cruise before our first Yellowstone trip. We thought our European cruise was the trip of a lifetime. No. Not after Yellowstone.

4. Try Grand Teton National Park: On our first trip there, we visited Grand Teton but it was on fire. This time, we camped along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, in Moran. This spot, Flagg Ranch, was absolute gold. It positioned us between Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Grand Teton doesn’t have the jaw-dropping scenery of Yellowstone, but wait … yes it does.

Not my best picture by a long shot. The haze is due to the fires and the time of day.

5. Get to Canyon. My clear favorite in the Park was Canyon and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. It’s truly amazing, it could be its own park.

That’s all I wanted to say about this for the moment. Our first Yellowstone trip was when this sports blog migrated to a travel & RV blog. We aren’t going to Yellowstone this year but I did want to let ya’ll know we think about it often.

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